Last Saturday, to break our 2-hour trip to the builders’ warehouse in the Var (region), we prepared a generous picnic basket for an alfresco lunch in Airole.
You might ask, why the “2-hour” trip? Because about 60 kilometer radius from where we live (Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, among others), all the builders’ stores are a rip-off, charging a fortune to everything from rubber washers to water heater tanks to bathtubs. They regard everyone who lives in the south of France as rolling in money. We don’t.
Airole. It’s always a mindblowing experience to visit this ancient village hewn out of a rock perched above the Roya Valley.
The houses built inside caves and the dark and narrow labyrinthal passageways sort of put you into a trance and the deeper you probe,
an interesting corner or garden is waiting to surprise you. Surprisingly enough, this village is frequented by the Dutch and there is a modest number of Dutch residents here as indicated by the several cars with NL plates in all the parking lots that snake around the rock. A bar-cafe in the square is owned by a Dutch couple.
We saw on the noticeboard that it is the Festa del Turista day and some dancing and dining would be held that night. We were curious why they would celebrate a Tourist Festival but heck, this is just one of the summer festivals we are always scouting for and it to be in Italy is a bonus! So after our picnic, we quickly drove straight to the (poorer South of France residents’) builders’ warehouse promising ourselves that we shall return that evening…..
Because the village is carved from a rocky hill, the only wider space to put up a football field
and a children’s playground is at the summit. We had our picnic in the park nearby.
Exploring ancient villages is great for those looking for house decorating/renovating ideas.
This window gives the illusion that it has a “functioning” terrace
The dine and dance night
Arriving at the foot of Airole hill at 9pm, we were directed by two carabineri to a carpark 300 meters away. No sweat really because a long and winding series of stone steps right infront of our parking spot gives direct access to the village on top.
As soon as we set foot in the village square, we were taken aback by a man’s voice uttering the word…..”ahl-LOR-ah ]…to a neighbour. Gee, that really gave us the feeling that we were in Italian soil! We love Italians speak. They speak with charming power. They speak as if they are singing in the opera!
The festival was well attended by tourists and locals alike.
There were no waiters nor waitresses to take orders. To buy food, we had to join a long queue of 50 people towards this man. “Fifty” was almost always constant due to continuous arrival of newcomers. The flow of cash was concentrated on him. He sold colour-coded tickets; one colour for drinks, another for the main dish i.e;; pasta with mussels or barbecue, still another for french fries, etc all food could be claimed in the outdoor kitchen; drinks at the bar.
While everyone queued and dined, the 2-man band was playing lively music and people started dancing.